January 20, 2021
Cheated and Crossed: The Blessings of Esau and Ephraim
For the last twenty days, I have followed the course set forth by a Bible reading plan.
This plan is not a prosecutor, determined to indict me when I miss a reading. It is a friend, resting in a digital file, eager to be retrieved and consulted daily.
Do you have such a plan?
My plan is like a broken record. It whispers an identical message repeatedly. Every bullet point, check box, and assignment gently nudges me to keep reading!
My “keep reading plan” rebukes the occasional temptation to read too quickly, skip over parts, or to quit altogether. It assures me that each verse and chapter belongs to a larger context.
God is that context.
Cheated: The Blessing of Esau (Genesis 27)
Isaac had twin sons: Esau (the firstborn) and Jacob. When Isaac became old and his eyes were dim so that he could not see, he called for his older son. Not knowing the day of his death, Isaac set in motion a process for blessing Esau with an inheritance that belongs to the first son by birth.
A short time later in the story, I found myself grasping for a “mute” button and hoping my sleeping children wouldn’t wake up!
“An exceedingly great and bitter cry” pierced the air as Esau screeched in terror: “Bless me, even me also, O my father!” (Genesis 27:34, ESV).
I wondered if shutting off my reading device would silence the cry and mitigate the onset of any sympathy pains?
“Keep reading,” my plan whispered.
In Esau’s words, he was “cheated” out of both his birthright and blessing by his younger brother, Jacob (Genesis 27:36, ESV). Blinded to his own sin, Esau was unable to see his own contributions to this predicament along the way.
His pain is tangible. The text says: “he lifted up his voice and wept” (Genesis 27:38, ESV).
Esau’s ensuing anger and hatred for his brother were intense (Genesis 27:41, ESV). If he will not inherit the blessing one way, perhaps he thought he might procure it another way?
Crossed: The Blessing of Ephraim (Genesis 48)
Twenty-one chapters later, Jacob, now named Israel, is old and ill. His grandsons are brought before him. He will bless them before he dies as two of his own sons: Manasseh (the firstborn) and Ephraim.
Israel stretches out his right hand (for the older) and lays it upon Ephraim (the younger). He stretches out his left hand (for the younger) and lays it upon Manasseh (the older), crossing his hands (Genesis 48:14, ESV).
Bracing for impact, I was relieved to discover Joseph’s reaction to this crossing is less forceful than that of Esau’s. The ringing in my ears from the previous episode continues to subside without further trauma…
Nevertheless, Joseph (the father of the two) is displeased with what he sees (Genesis 48:17, ESV). He says to his father, Jacob: “Not this way, my father; since this one [Manasseh] is the firstborn, put your right hand on his head.” (Genesis 48:18, ESV). Jacob refused and said, “I know, my son, I know." (Genesis 48:19a, ESV).
Jacob was not making a mistake. He was acting with what can only be understood as knowledge from God. This crossing was an obvious part of a larger context, which means the cheating of Esau’s blessing that preceded it was too.
God knows what He will do. God does what He wills.
If we entertain the notion that God gives up, retreats or yields even one small detail of His plan in exchange for our own — with an attitude of come what may! — then the world would literally fall apart. God's plan is not altered by us.
The clamor of happenings around us confuse us. We respond with various degrees of emotion, depending on how we interpret events, as either a blessing or curse.
But if we keep reading, we will remember that the events of the world fit into a larger context — God’s revealed, bigger picture.
Esau was cheated out of his blessing, without the bestower’s knowledge. Ephraim was crossed into his blessing, with the bestower’s knowledge. Neither event was an accident. Both were purposeful events in God’s plan.
As we keep reading, we are introduced to a descendant of Jacob (not Esau) who is God’s Son. He too would receive an inheritance, but was cheated out of it and nailed to a cross. God’s Son knew no sin, but was crucified by people who did. God’s Son had the right to live, but instead died. He was buried in a tomb — cheated and crossed.
But if we keep reading, we will see God’s Son was raised! In a turn of events, death is cheated and crossed! For those rightly deserving death are granted eternal life by faith. Being raised, God’s Son receives the inheritance, and through Him we receive — God's blessing!
This was all part of God's plan accomplished through His Son, Jesus. And Jesus is coming again soon. Keep reading.